The NFL trade deadline has come and gone. We’ve graded all of the major moves right here.
Stats are courtesy of TruMedia and Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted.
The Bears acquired wide receiver Chase Claypool from the Steelers for their 2023 second-round pick.
Additionally, the Steelers traded a 2025 conditional sixth-rounder to the Commanders for William Jackson and a 2025 conditional seventh-rounder.
Why the Bears made the trade:
Fields has had very little help around him, so Claypool instantly improves the group of receivers. Darnell Mooney and Claypool will be their top pairing and a respectable duo when compared against the rest of the league.
Bears trade for Chase Claypool: Why now, and what it means for Justin Fields
Just how desperate were the Bears for receiver help? Their second most productive wideout, Equanimeous St. Brown, has 11 catches, 164 yards and one touchdown this season and 48 catches for 707 yards and two scores since entering the league in 2018
Claypool, meanwhile, has 153 catches for 2,044 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 39 career games.
Why the Steelers made the trades:
That second-round pick has a chance to be in the top 40, which is huge value. They could use that pick to get a starting offensive lineman for a unit that desperately needs improvement.
The Steelers offense hasn’t been good for a couple years, and they’re in a transition period with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. They’ve also got Diontae Johnson — signed to an extension in August — and rookie George Pickens as their top wideouts, and the Steelers can develop receivers in their sleep.
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Jackson was once good enough to be a first-round pick and to sign a three-year, $40.5 million contract, but he wanted out of Washington, where he’s struggled. He’ll help a talented Steelers defense with some depth issues.
Why the Commanders made the trade:
Jackson wanted out and hasn’t been playing due to a back injury. The Commanders got out of his contract a year early and can focus on the players who want to be there.
Bears grade: B-plus
They paid a big price for Claypool, but he was a second-round pick in 2020 who has flashed enough to validate what the Steelers saw in him. And the Bears needed to step up with this offer to outbid their division rival Packers.
Two or three years from now, of course, there’s a chance the Bears look at this trade and wonder what might have been if they held onto the draft pick. But they need to help Fields right now. Not so they can win, but so they can properly evaluate their young quarterback with real NFL weapons around him. And if Fields, Mooney and Claypool establish chemistry that carries into 2023, they should be thrilled.
Steelers grade: A-minus
It seemed like the Steelers and Claypool were destined for a split, so the return is pretty significant. If the Steelers continue to struggle, they’ll have a top-10 pick — they’re at No. 4 at the moment — and another two picks in the top half of the second round.
As for Jackson, they gave up very little in the hope he’ll get healthier and recapture his form from earlier in his career.
Commanders grade: C-plus
Better than releasing him.
The Jaguars acquired wide receiver Calvin Ridley from the Falcons for a pair of conditional draft picks — a 2023 sixth-rounder that can become a fifth-rounder and a 2024 fourth-rounder that can be worth as high as a second-rounder if certain conditions are met.
Why the Jaguars made the trade:
The Jaguars are betting on Ridley being reinstated from his indefinite suspension in time for the 2023 season.
Ridley, who turns 28 in December, is a legitimately talented playmaker with an Alabama and first-round pedigree. He’s got the potential to be a true No. 1 receiver — he was in 2020 with 90 catches, 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns — if he doesn’t regress during his time off.
The Jaguars have a lottery ticket in quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was the biggest QB prospect in a decade but got derailed by the dysfunctional Urban Meyer season in 2021. If Ridley can indeed blossom into a top wideout with Christian Kirk and running back Travis Etienne, plus anyone else the Jaguars add next offseason, this will suddenly be a much more dangerous offense.
Why the Falcons made the trade:
A year and a day before the trade, Ridley announced he was stepping away from football for mental health reasons. The two sides also appeared to be heading toward a split last offseason before the NFL suspended Ridley for gambling on NFL games.
Ridley can apply for reinstatement after this season. But again, his future wasn’t going to be in Atlanta. Whether the Falcons recoup a sixth- and a fourth- or a fifth- and a second-, they got something for a player with no guaranteed future in the league — and certainly a guarantee that it wouldn’t be with the Falcons.
Jaguars grade: B
This is a hedge of a grade.
If Ridley is reinstated, becomes a No. 1 receiver and puts the disciplinary measure in the past, it’ll be an easy A.
If not, the conditions on the trade will amount to a pair of Saturday draft picks, and it was at least worth enough of a shot to reduce it to a C.
Falcons grade: B-plus
The Falcons couldn’t have possibly done anything more to increase Ridley’s value. Could they have tried to smooth things over after his presumed reinstatement, showcased him in the preseason and flipped him for a better draft haul? Possibly, but that could have created a different set of obstacles.
The sides were set to split. If Ridley pans out with the Jaguars, the Falcons will get a fourth-rounder and a second-rounder. That’s about as well as they could reasonably do under the circumstances.
Dolphins boost pass rush with acquisition of Bradley Chubb from Broncos
In separate moves, the Dolphins replaced Edmonds with running back Jeff Wilson, whom they acquired from the 49ers for a 2023 fifth-round pick. And the Broncos added pass rush depth by landing Jacob Martin and a 2024 fifth-rounder from the Jets for a 2024 fourth-rounder.
Why the Dolphins made the trades
Before Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion, the Dolphins were 3-0, coming off an impressive victory against the Bills and looking like legitimate contenders. They’ve since gotten back on that track and figure to be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
Wilson will be the underrated move of the pair, but his familiarity with coach Mike McDaniel should boost the Dolphins’ rushing attack and make their offense that much deeper.
But more significantly, Chubb is a dynamite pass rusher who is flourishing in his healthiest season since his rookie year. The Dolphins need someone who can cause chaos if they’re going to knock off the Bills or Chiefs in the playoffs.
Why the Broncos made the trades
Chubb was set to become a free agent in the offseason, so the Broncos must have believed it was a long shot to keep him. It’s a hard reality for any organization, but it’s smart business to get out in front and get a lot of value before it reaches that point.
Plus, the Broncos need to recoup picks from the Russell Wilson trade that, so far, has not panned out. The team is stuck in a unique middle ground where they’re massively underachieving but also have to realize the potential is still there to be highly competitive. But will they reach that potential? And if not, they absolutely cannot be stuck in a rebuild without high draft assets.
This type of trade helps them hedge a bit.
Dolphins grade: A
OK, you might be wondering why the Dolphins got such a high grade for landing a half season of Chubb just a day after the Ravens got an incomplete grade for acquiring linebacker Roquan Smith’s expiring contract. There are two major differences.
First, Chubb plays a premium position, and teams have shown a much greater willingness to recalibrate their books by investing a major contract in a top-tier pass rusher. Second, the Dolphins immediately extended wide receiver Tyreek Hill after that blockbuster trade, so there’s precedent to believe it’ll happen again with Chubb.
They almost certainly don’t view Chubb as a rental. If the contract discussions fall apart and they lose Chubb, the A-grade will vanish, too.
Broncos grade: B-plus
In a vacuum, the trade itself deserves an A. It’s rare to get a first-round pick at the deadline when a player is on an expiring contract.
The reason the Broncos are getting dinged is more about the message it might send to the locker room. They just ended their four-game losing streak — they were allowing 15.7 points per game over the last three losses — with a sterling defensive performance against the Jaguars to improve to 3-5.
They defense has been very good this season, allowing the second fewest points in the league, and it’s truly the only reason the Broncos didn’t open with seven consecutive losses. (Their first two wins were by scores of 16-9 and 11-10). Chubb was one of their most talented players, finally healthy and a reason for his teammates to get excited on a weekly basis.
Now, the Broncos are in their bye week before games against the Titans, Raiders, Panthers and Ravens. While there’s absolutely no guarantee the Broncos are on the verge of turning it around, that’s a four-game stretch that included two winnable games and two more against teams they’re chasing in the AFC standings. If there was any hope to get back in the mix, this has to be it.
Players are often professional enough to understand the business aspect of life in the NFL, so they’ll recognize why the Chubb trade was important for the direction of the organization. They’re also human, so they’ll see there was an emphasis placed on 2023 over 2022.
This puts that at a crossroads during a season that has already been turbulent enough.
The Lions dealt T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick to the Vikings for a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.
Why the Vikings made the trade:
The Vikings are 6-1 and almost too quietly enjoying life as the NFC’s No. 2 seed under first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
But while they’re ranked ninth in scoring with the offensive-minded O’Connell, they haven’t gotten enough out of their tight ends. Compounding that issue, top pass-catching tight end Irv Smith Jr. was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday and could as many as 8-10 weeks, ESPN reported.
Hockenson, who is under contract through 2023, ranks fifth this season among tight ends in receiving yards (395), first in yards per catch (15.19) and second in average yards after the catch (8.04). The eighth pick of the 2019 draft is a well-rounded tight end, which is important with the Vikings’ ground game and Dalvin Cook.
Hockenson should find plenty of room over the middle of the field with defenses keying on receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. He’ll also make things easier for receiver K.J. Osborn and even Smith, if he returns later this season.
Why the Lions made the trade:
Let’s rationalize this one here before giving out the grade later.
The Lions are rebuilding — aren’t they always? — and there’s nothing more important to the rebuild than finding the quarterback of the future. They have the worst record in the NFL (1-6) and therefore the inside track on the No. 1 pick.
But if they win a couple games and fall out of position for their preferred QB, they’ll have the ammunition to try to move up, so long as there are teams in front of them that aren’t in the quarterback market.
A good way to increase the degree of difficulty of accidentally winning a couple times? For the NFL’s ninth-ranked scoring offense, it’s to trade away the player who leads the team in receiving yards (395) and touchdowns (three) and ranks second in catches (26) and targets (43).
Vikings grade: A
The locker room has already bought all the way in to O’Connell, and this will further strengthen the message from the top of the organization. They’re going for it, and that’ll give the team an added boost.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has targeted tight ends on just 18.9 percent of his passes this season, which ranks 20th in the league. Smith, who has only played 52.9 percent of the snaps, ranks 27th among tight ends with 168 receiving yards. So there was a void in the offense.
O’Connell should do a solid job of putting it all together.
Lions grade: F
If they draft a quarterback next year, it’d be helpful to have a quality tight end to pair with him.
And why, when the offense is clicking, are the Lions taking away one of their premium pieces? This deal would make more sense if Hockenson was in the final year of his contract, but the Lions are merely unloading his $9.39 million cap hit in 2023.
While rebuilding, it’s important to keep talented pieces, not flip them for future assets in the hope that they can be turned into other valuable pieces. Sure, the next draft class is expected to be deep on tight end talent, but there’s a steep learning curve at that position so there’s little guarantee the Lions replace Hockenson’s production in short order.
And it’s not as if the Lions gained additional picks. They simply moved up two rounds in 2023 and potentially one round in 2024, pending the conditions of the pick. Of course, there’s value in that, but the cost seems to exceed the value.
Then the Lions kept Hockenson in the division, so they’ll see him in December and twice next season. That’s going to be a tough sell to the fanbase if Hockenson plays well against them or helps the Vikings in the playoffs.
And while the trade should galvanize the Vikings’ locker room, will it have a countereffect in Detroit, which also fired defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant on Tuesday? The Lions might lose a lot, but they play hard and have drawn plenty of respect from their opponents for that. That’s been the case since head coach Dan Campbell took over. They must know question their incentive to keep after it when the organization is sending mixed messages by unloading one of their best players.
Hockenson should not have been viewed as untouchable before the trade deadline. It just didn’t make sense to move him under these terms.
Bills add quality depth for stretch run
The Bills acquired running back Nyheim Hines from the Colts for running back Zach Moss and a conditional 2023 sixth-round pick. The Bills also acquired safety Dean Marlowe for a 2023 seventh-round pick from the Falcons.
Why the Bills made the deals:
Depth for a Super Bowl run. Devin Singletary has been a good player for them, and this trade by no means indicates he’ll be pushed out of the running back picture. But Hines, soon to be 26 years old, is one of the best satellite backs in the league, and the Bills have been chasing a player like him for the past two years. He’s a proven commodity as both a route-runner and a pass-catcher (two 60-catch seasons), though he still has the ability to run between the tackles (4.0 yards per carry for his career). He’s also an excellent punt returner.
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But his biggest value comes on offense, where he’ll give the Bills some added flexibility. They’ll be able to split him out wide or put in the slot, where he’ll command the respect of the defense. Teams won’t just be able to stick a linebacker on Hines and expect that to suffice. If they do, he’ll win that matchup most of the time, and he is a dynamo in open space. For only the cost of a late-round pick, the Bills offense got a little bit scarier on Tuesday.
As for Marlowe, the New York native joins a team he’s already pretty familiar with, having played in Buffalo from 2018-20. He arrives at a good time for the Bills, too, as safety Jordan Poyer hurt his elbow over the weekend, and Micah Hyde is already out for the year. He’ll join Damar Hamlin and Jaquan Johnson as insurance options for the stingy Bills defense.
Why the Colts made the deal:
At 3-4-1 and trailing the 5-2 Titans in the AFC South — not to mention having just switched quarterbacks and firing their offensive coordinator on Tuesday — the Colts need to be looking toward the future. Even if they managed to catch Tennessee in the South — a long shot at best — what chance does Sam Ehlinger have against the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson?
Why the Colts dealt running back Nyheim Hines to the Bills
No, the Colts need to be looking toward the 2023 NFL Draft to find their future at the quarterback position, and when that’s your primary focus, every additional draft pick helps.
Why the Falcons made the deal:
Marlowe hasn’t had a big role in Atlanta this season, starting only one game and registering just 11 tackles on the year. He is past-his-prime veteran who doesn’t fit into the Falcons’ future plans.
Trade grade for Bills: A-minus
Late-round picks should mean next to nothing to a team in the throes of Super Bowl contention. They got better on Tuesday. That’s all that matters. Hines is yet another weapon they can deploy against defenses already trying to account for Stefon Diggs, Gave Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Dawson Knox and all of the rest. He’s also a dangerous punt returner and provides the Bills depth in that aspect of the game as well.
Marlowe helps shore up an area of the defense that needs reinforcements right now.
Trade grade for Colts: B-minus
The Colts managed to extract some value for a player they were hardly using (18 carries, 25 receptions) behind star running back Jonathan Taylor. Hines also wanted out, so it’s fair to give them some credit for appeasing a well-respected veteran. They also unload his salary and take on minimal dead cap ($3 million in each of the next two years). Hines carries with him a total of $12.3 million on his contract for the rest of this season as well as 2023 and 2024. While a move like this speaks to their failures as an offense and will certainly be a blow to the locker room, it’s not like it does much to hurt them this season, and they collect a pick for next year.
Moss, meanwhile fills out the bottom of the Colts RB depth chart where he can compete with Deon Jackson for touches.
Trade grade for the Falcons: A
Though the Falcons sit atop the NFC South standings, they know their best years remain ahead of them. They’re playing for the future, so getting any asset for a 30-year-old safety they were highly unlikely to re-sign is a win.
More trade analysis:
Take a look back at our trade grades from the major moves made within the past couple of weeks:
(Top photo of Chase Claypool: Charles LeClaire / USA Today)